My Blog

Gold Canyon – IV

A week ago I loaded up my van and began the drive down to Gold Canyon, Arizona. It would be my fourth visit and extended stay there. I’d booked a townhouse there for March 15 to April 15. I took the largest suitcase in my collection and threw in virtually ALL of my summer (golfing) shirts and shorts. It and two of my bikes and my golf clubs were behind me in the back of the van. I also had Max’s little bicycle and Tim and Alex’s golf clubs loaded up. I left town just before noon, heading down to Sioux City, Iowa for my first night.

Fully loaded

The roads were fine — no ice or snow. The U.S. customs guy asked me where I was going and for how long and then wished me a safe trip. The American freeways were what they always are: big and smooth and wide open and fast. Eighty miles and hour. Just me and all my trucker buddies on the road. Big blue sky. I kept an eye on the outside temperature gauge on my dashboard to see how far I would have to drive before it went up a degree. It felt great to be on the road again.

I made it down to the America’s Best Value Inn in South Sioux, Nebraska by around 8pm. I guess ‘value’ is in the eye of the beholder. The ‘receptionist’ would have easily qualified for the Ringling Brothers ‘Largest Man in the World’ exhibit. I decided to forego a ‘happy meal’ or some similar fast food supper option, and just have a couple of ‘fleisch perschke’ and a can of Pilsner Urquell from my cooler of ‘leftovers’ I’d salvaged from my fridge when I ‘closed down’ the house this morning. I drove down Main Street and stopped at a car wash to desalinize my van. That made me feel better.

I guess ‘Free Hot Breakfast’ is also subject to interpretation. Luckily the egg mcmuffin and one-dollar coffee at the nearby McDonald’s drive-thru were less disappointing. The overnight temperature was just above freezing, but it would be another great day for driving. With both me and my van freshly washed, clean and shiny, and fuelled up, we hit the road. Straight south. All day. Straight down to Oklahoma City. That’s about the same latitude as Albuquerque and only a little farther north than Phoenix so it should be nice and warm.

Just me and all these truckers on the road today

After another 8-hour day of open roads and lots of great (loud) music from the random playlist on my old iPod that’s hooked up to my car stereo, I arrived at the (ten dollar pricier than last night’s hotel) ‘Broadway Inn & Suites’ Best Western in Oklahoma City. It took only three false starts for me to find a satisfactory room (with a working lightbulb in the bathroom) before I opened up my backpack and logged onto the hotel wifi. I was a little hoarse from singing all day and very hungry from not having eaten a decent meal for a couple of days. And I needed to stretch my legs. The little (thin) East Indian guy behind the front desk showed me on his phone how to get to the nearest cineplex where I would find restaurants and movies to help me while away the evening. Only about 2 miles from the hotel — I would walk. Walk? No, much too far. Yes, walk. I need the exercise. Is it safe for me to walk back in the dark later? Oh yes. I checked the movie listings and picked the one that sounded least like the typical big ‘blow-em-up’ sound and fury blockbuster of the lot. And then I headed out.

The movie wasn’t much more interesting than the fish burger I had before it. In fact, since I’m writing this a nearly a week later, I’ve actually forgotten both. But the walk was great. Sure, it’s a little unnerving to walk back in the dark in a strange city on an unlit sidewalk for a brisk 45-minutes, but it feels so good when you get back to your ‘Broadway’ suite safe and sound.

Another cool morning. Scrambled eggs and sausages for breakfast. Fill up the van. Hit the road, heading straight west to Albuquerque. Most of the way the road was 3 lanes in each direction, with the trucks limited to using the right two lanes. There are so many semis on the road now that it makes sense to have dedicated trucking lanes. Nothing is more frustrating than getting slowed down by a semi SLOWLY trying to pass another semi.

I got into Albuquerque early. Because I’d booked a hotel on the west side of the city I got stuck in rush hour traffic for the last hour of my drive. Still, I checked into my hotel at around 4pm. Plenty early. Last night when I made my hotel booking for today I had purposely selected a hotel that was near shopping centres and restaurants and theatres — thinking that would be more convenient than repeating the long late night ‘stroll’ I’d had through ‘no-mans-land’ last night. Well, I guess there’s always a trade-off: sure, the Microtel Inn and Suites was surrounded by strip malls and gas stations, but clearly THIS side of Albuquerque wasn’t the ritzy part of town. Pimps and beggars and a busy highway did not make a walk tonight all that appealing. And the note at the hotel front desk, suggesting that vans and trailers would be safer if parked in the well-lit back lot where there were security cameras, didn’t instil a whole lot of confidence in me either. Instead of walking, I ended up taking the van to the strip mall just down the street. And whatever ‘fitness kick’ I thought I was on was quickly undermined when I ordered a big greasy shrimp and fries meal at a ‘chester-fried’ chicken joint where I could sit by the window and keep an eye on my van! No movie tonight. I was back in my room by 8:30. Since the last leg of my trip was a 6-hour drive into Gold Canyon, and ‘possession’ of my house was supposed to be at 3pm, I decided I might as well stay up ‘late’ and watch a couple of the late night comedy shows. Unfortunately the next time I looked at the clock it was one o’clock in the morning — I had slept through my shows and the only thing on TV now was infomercials and late-night TV preacher shows. Man, I’m such a loser!

I’m telling you, those crazy waffle machines they have in all the hotels now aren’t NEARLY as exciting as they were the first few times I saw and used them! Every flea-bitten (flea-infested?) hotel now advertises “Hot Breakfast” or even “Hot BUFFET Breakfast”. By now I know better; I’ll skip it and instead pull into one of the truck stops an hour into the drive and go for the egg mcmuffin and coffee. 

Near Grants, New Mexico

It’s just a few minutes out of Albuquerque and immediately the scenery changes. Before me, as far as the eye can see, extends a big valley with rocky ridges out in the distance and a ‘ribbon of divided highway’ painting a black stripe from me to the horizon. And the farther down the road I go, the better the scenery gets. I take a turn south off of the interstate at Grants and take the scenic route through the El Malpais National Conservation Area. I should have taken more photos. It’s a bit of a climb up to Show Low, Arizona where I stop for gas. At 6300 ft, the temperature here is freezing. And the ‘sleety’ rain that’s coming down limits my fill to ten bucks — that will get me ‘home’ where I’ll fill it up for real. But the best part of the ride is just ahead. The winding trip down to a thousand feet of elevation takes me through the Snake River Canyon. STUNNING! You don’t even WANT to pass the slow vehicles ahead of you because it’s so much fun to look at the cliffs on the one side and the canyon down to the river below you and the other side. The highway soon takes a turn back up to northwest, and then it’s only a few more minutes and I see the familiar and welcome sight of Superstition Mountain. I’m “home” — at least it FEELS like I’m home. I’m happy to be here.

I had emailed the rental agent yesterday to enquire about how to get access to the house — and she emailed back that she was too busy and so she gave me the access code to the community gate and told me the keys to the house would be under the mat at the front door. I made a quick stop at the Basha’s grocery store at the corner to buy provisions for the first evening and tomorrow’s breakfast. I’m still not very comfortable shopping for groceries, but I had made a bit of a list and I managed okay. Then I drove to the house — again, I remembered the area because a few years ago Sue and I had come from Palm Springs to visit our friends Dave and MaryLou who had rented a house in this same complex. I found the keys, parked the van in the garage, unloaded the groceries, and opened a bottle of Sam Adams lager. Ahhh. This will work out just fine!

So tired of seeing that same first post on this page!

No, I’m not blogging again. But really, I was so tired of seeing an old post about going to Palm Desert here I just had to change it. So, today is Friday. It’s the second half of November and we still haven’t had snow. Crazy!

This afternoon Sue and I are going to Winnipeg — first to do a bit of shopping, and then we’re going to friends’ house for dinner.

And now it’s almost time to go. So, adios. We’re off to Winnipeg. How’s that for excitement!

Goodbye Steinbach, Hello Palm Desert

A long busy day of packing and saying goodbyes. The plan is to leave early tomorrow morning for Palm Desert. A long first day of driving.

Sue says goodbye to Max the afternoon before we leave for Palm Desert.
Sue says goodbye to Max the afternoon before we leave for Palm Desert.

We cleaned up the house — got rid of all the Christmas stuff. Sue did laundry, vacuumed, cleaned out the upstairs fridge. The kids came over with Max for a bit. We said goodbyes. We went to visit first Sue’s mom, then my parents, and said goodbye.

I’m looking forward to the next few months. I’m looking forward to warmer weather. I’m looking forward to golfing. I’m looking forward to hanging out with Sue full-time.

I’ll miss a lot of things about home too. I’ll especially miss my family, and my little grandson. But I hope that we will be able to Skype regularly and that our kids can come visit us this winter. I’m looking forward to that, too.

Merry Christmas

Just so you know I’m still alive, here’s another post. It’s 7 in the morning, Christmas morning. Freezing cold outside. Freezing. And our ‘Nest’ energy-saving thermostat has it pretty cold INSIDE too.

Sue is making coffee. Sue is making another big feast for the second Christmas family gathering at our house this season — today it’s the Nikkel gathering. There will be a lot of cooking here today.

My desk is a mess. Papers and sticky notes everywhere. I need to clean this up. I’ve had my computer apart this past week — replaced the internal drive with a 256GB SSD drive and moved extra files to an external 2TB Passport drive. Re-installed Mountain Lion. Got my Macbook Air all cleaned up and ready to go too. And I’ve sent out most of my end-of-year invoices. Cleaning up.

Starting to think about heading south at the end of the week. Palm Desert. I’m looking forward to it. First year away since Max was born. We’ll miss him. A lot. We hope he’ll come visit us while we’re down there in California.

Maxwell James - 11-2012¬†Hey, I don’t think I’ve actually mentioned Max here on this blog. I’ll get a picture of him. That’s him there. Great photo (by David Klassen, friend of Tim and Alex). It was on the Christmas card the kids sent out. Very cute.

We had Christmas last night at Tim and Alex’s. Sue and I babysat while the kids went to church. Then we had supper and chocolates and opened gifts. Nice.

Okay, that’s the news from here. Did I say it’s cold? Yeah, it’s freezing cold. But now Sue has brought me a cup of coffee, the Byrds are playing on my itunes, and it’s time to get on with the day. Merry Christmas.

Snowy Thanksgiving Weekend

Just finished my Saturday bacon-and-eggs breakfast. Snow outside is starting to melt — it may actually all melt and allow Tim to go golfing at his scheduled 1:30pm tee time today after all. The Dehnes (the German couple we met at Peggy’s Cove this summer) were here for Friday night — and have now arrived safely in Brandon. Our first grandson has still not made his official appearance — Tim and Alex were over for supper last night and that little schnerps is really testing Alexandra’s patience. But all is well and that’s what really matters. Ed and Val are coming over for supper tonight. Now I am going to go sit down in my (new) favorite chair and read the latest David Bergen book, Hope. Maybe I’ll tackle the New York Times crossword puzzle in the weekend edition of the Free Press (if it ever arrives — it’s 9:30 and there’s still no paper!). I’ve started up iTunes and today’s playlist is already going strong.

Nope, not going away for the weekend after all!

So Ingrid calls and tells me that she’s reading my blog. What? Really? Reading my blog?

Okay Ingrid, here’s an update:

NOT going to Park Rapids. We’re wimping out. But the upside is that I don’t have to miss week 3 of my Friday night ‘Neil Young’ course at McNally-Robinson. And on Sunday we’ll go celebrate a 60th birthday for some friends of ours. Plus, I hope to be able to watch a bit of NFL on Sunday.

And MAYBE I can squeeze in a game of golf in there somewhere. That is, unless I have to go visit the doctor or something else as exciting as that!

It’s almost Fall

It’s Monday. A beautiful fall day. Since we have our windows open at night, it was 19 degrees in our house this morning. Time to log into my ‘Nest’ thermostat and switch it to the ‘heat’ mode. In a few days the actual autumnal equinox will cause the sun to reflect its light directly west of the 2 upper windows in our bedroom — an alignment that we get to see only twice a year. I’ll have to stay in bed until at least 7:30 to witness it.

I’ve not written in my blog for quite some time. The last entry was the first of what was to be a regular update on our trip to the east coast — I guess I’ll have to remove that ‘Cabot Trail’ entry from my menu. It already seems like that happened a long time ago. I haven’t ridden my bike since the last day of the cycling trip. In fact, on Saturday I went to Bikes and Beyond in Winnipeg to pick up my bike — had the chain replaced so it will be ready for this weekend’s “Headwaters 100” ride in Park Rapids.

Saturday was also Tadeo’s second birthday; we took Mom and Dad in to Winnipeg with us and enjoyed a piece of birthday cake at Stan and Irmy’s. Then in the evening we had Dave and Lois over for dinner — celebrating Lois’s birthday. Yesterday Sue and I read in the morning and then got picked up by Tim and Alex to go golfing at the Fly-in for 3 o’clock. It was cool but fun. Alex rode the cart and froze. We had smokies and beer when we got home from golf and we watched Sunday Night Football.

Tonight Sue has book club in Winnipeg. And I’ll stay home and watch Monday Night Football. Maybe i’ll turn on the fireplace.

Packed and ready to go

It’s the evening before I leave. Tomorrow morning I’ll head to Winnipeg with my van all packed. I’ll add Walter’s bikes and camping gear to the load and the two Nikkel brothers will hit the road for Halifax. Tonight I think we will probably take the Canadian route east, and then return via the US route.

I feel a little bad about packing Walter’s Thule carrier completely full with MY stuff — but maybe we can sort that out tomorrow morning. My guess is that we will make it to Thunder Bay for tomorrow night — our first night of camping. I’ve got to try out our old Coleman tent which hasn’t been used for nearly 8 years.

Sue and Angie will be flying out to Halifax next week Monday; we’ll pick them up at the airport and head out to Port Hawkesbury, just across the causeway to Cape Breton, from where our 8-day bike tour will depart next Wednesday.

I’ve been getting regular email updates from Werner and Karen — they’re on the way from Vancouver to Calgary on bikes. Tonight they are in the Banff campground with 2 days of cycling still ahead of them. Hope our Cape Breton adventure goes as smoothly.

Hot as summer…

It’s been so hot for the last week. Tonight we’re sitting outside and the temperature is just perfect. Birds are singing. Frogs are croaking. The neighbour’s air conditioner finally switched off. Out in the distance you can hear a motorcycle rev up as it heads north on the number twelve highway. Sue is sitting in the lounger working on a crossword. I had a little snooze on the couch after supper. Soon it is time to go for an ice cream. Good as it gets.

Middle of June!

Hey, it’s the middle of June already! Mom’s 80th birthday celebration has come and gone. So has Linda, who came here for the party and whom I brought back to the airport today. And Alex is off on our ‘big event’ — an overnight with her grade 6 class at the museum in Winnipeg. And Tim is just finishing up the silicone on the new tub enclosure in the bathroom. And Sue and Rudy both missed their Wednesday night golf dates tonight.

But the lawn is mowed. Rain is in the forecast. WordPress is updated to version 3.4. All is well.